Brasil 1 holds the lead by just one mile, with Ericsson and ABN AMRO 1 hot on their tail 9/6/06

The three leading VO70s on leg 8 of Volvo Ocean Race are playing cat and mouse as they charge the final 170 miles to Rotterdam.

Brasil 1 (Torben Grael) has overtaken Ericsson (Neal McDonald) and is a mile ahead, 80 miles offshore, 40 miles south of Newcastle and still north of the River Humber. ABN AMRO ONE (Mike Sanderson) is holding onto third position, just four miles behind the leader.

Ericsson skipper Neal McDonald wrote last night: “I look back over the last few days racing, tired but happy. The boys have put up a great fight, and despite the rather docile weather, what a fight it has been. I can’t remember the number of place changes since the start off Southsea.

“We have been in sight of at least one boat all the time, which always makes the racing more intense, more tiring, but much more exciting. With plenty of tactical options, loads of headlands to turn around and plenty of traps to fall into this is not a course that gives any one any time to relax!”

Racing in these conditions makes for tactical racing as McDonald explains he’s more concerned now about “dodging rocks, wind shifts, tides and falling into holes”.

Sailing in an area with abundant wildlife, Brasil 1 have been contemplating the effects of climate change of the Arctic in sighting what may have been “Little Penguins”. Henrique Pellicano & Stuart Wilson comment:

“While sailing through the waters North of Ireland and Scotland we noticed numerous small aquatic birds around us. As the boat moved at high speed, we could notice that some of them were capable of swimming very fast below the water surface, diving near the boat and re-appearing some meters in front, others tried – in spite of its visible small wings – a low kind of unsuccessful flight.

Thinking what kind of bird these were, we discussed the existence of penguins in the Northern Hemisphere and we concluded that these could be the so called “Little Penguins” also known by the Norwegians as ‘Alle Alle’.”

Meanwhile, the trailing boats are only level with the Firth of Forth, about 100 miles off the Scottish coast and still has 275 miles to race to the finish.

Early this morning, Paul Cayard and crew aboard Pirates of the Caribbean have moved away from ABN AMRO TWO (Sebastien Josse) and Brunel (Matt Humphries) and are some eight miles ahead of the two rival Dutch boats, sailing to the west of zero longitude (the Greenwich Meridian Line) while the remainder of the fleet is sailing east of the line.

This morning Paul Cayard reports: “We are hanging in there despite how absurd this leg has gotten. We have been parked up at least once every twelve hours in the last two days. Today we had a complete park up after getting through the cut at the top of Scotland. We were supposed to be on our bike after that, like the front three, but we’ve got another hole to deal with. We will probably have another park up tonight as we are now sailing in a sea breeze local to the coast here and will have to make the transition to the gradient tonight. Reshuffle again with ABN Amro Two and Brunel.”

Pirates of the Caribbean had only four meals left for the final 400 miles, and have been rationing to one meal every 100 miles.

The conditions have been fickle and are not expected to change much in the final miles to Rotterdam.

But as McDonald wrote for Ericsson: “ABN AMRO ONE and Brasil 1 are in sight, so the battle still rages on.”